With its bright primary colours on a three dimensional playing board, Centrix conveys the immediate appearance of merely being a light children's game. For sure, children can learn and play it but looks can be deceiving: despite its simple and straightforward rules, Centrix is a surprisingly challenging abstract strategy game.
The game is set up by placing concentric cardboard rings on the three-dimensional plastic tray. Initially the six layers of rings are all lined up by colour (and, for the colourblind, there's a flip side to each ring that adds a distinctive icon for each colour). The 2–6 players each have three pawns and they start each turn with a hand of three cards. There are a couple of rainbow and unlimited rotation wild cards but most are printed in one of the six colours matching those of the 3D circular board. On your turn you can play any number of cards from your hand (you'll almost always play all three, tho' you may want to hang on to a wild card in the hope of being able to make better use of it on your next turn). You take the actions indicated: placing one of your pawns out on the lowest ring, turning a ring on which you already have a pawn (either clockwise or anticlockwise but always the precise number of spaces indicated on the card) and you can move a pawn already on that ring one space up, down or sideways provided they end up on the colour shown on the card. Your objective is to be the first to get all three of your pawns up to the top of the Centrix board before any of your opponents.
There are a couple of special rules that add player vs player interaction to the game. You can jump other pieces ahead of you provided the space you ultimately land on matches the colour of your card, and you can bump an opponent's piece (knocking them back two rings lower) if you land on the same space as them. You can even set off a small chain reaction so that their bumped piece bumps another...
That's pretty much all there is to the rules but this really doesn't convey the brain burning that you'll experience planning your optimal sequencing and play of your three cards. Designers Richard MacRae and Corey Mycken, and artist Michael Christopher, have pulled off the trick of putting together a visually attractive abstract game that you can play as a light family game with satisfying ring rotation action yet it's a game with enough depth that you'll need excellent spatial awareness and mental agility to do well at Centrix against seriously competitive opponents.
We found the dynamics of the game vary with the number of players. Centrix certainly works as a two player game but it's at its best with more players, and therefore a busier more crowded board with a high level of player interaction. Play with 5 or 6 and you'll find the game can seem chaotic, with dizzyingly frequent rotation and much bumping, but also more jumping, so games with higher player counts don't usually end up taking that much longer than the 30 minutes indicated on the box. If you enjoy a good abstract strategy game, you won't want to miss Centrix.